Thursday, May 28, 2009

You can't smell a Kindle

Recently, I went into one of my favorite local places in the world, a little second-hand book nook in Palmetto, geared up for a comforting eight-hour browse on a rainy afternoon.

This little place is hidden behind another shop that sells old tires and refrigerators and small appliances. You almost can't see it behind the graveyard of washing machines and old hot water heaters, and I found it quite by accident a year ago. It's sort of attached there as an afterthought.

I walked in, coffee in hand, ready to crawl around the stacks and sneeze in the dust and find a few hidden masterpieces. I wasn't surprised to see the lady behind the counter curled up and reading herself. Things are slow when it downpours.

What I was surprised to find, though, was that she was reading on a Kindle! Scouring an e-book in the middle of all of these stacks of forgotten treasures. Interesting juxtaposition.

The Kindle is a curious little gadget. It can download (for a fee) and hold about 1,500 books. The new version will even read to you, if you are so inclined. It plays MP3's in the background if you need tunes to read by.

There's even a Kindle app now for the pretentious iPhone. (iPhone, by the by, is going on the list of things I never want to hear again at the end of the year. 'Swine Flu' is also on it.)
I must admit, I just don't get the whole e-book thing. O.K., it's convenient and it's quick and it may even be a bit cheaper than actually paying for the physical book, and it saves trees, I'm certain. I've edited a few for clients.

But what happened to holding a book in your hands? Feeling the paper, smelling the ink? Cracking the spine? Call me kooky, but I love that visceral feel of a new book. And I love the dust and mold from an old book, too. I like to be in my quiet home office, surrounded by the noble look of shelves and shelves of books.

I also wonder what this slide in the industry will mean for our local book places. Do they have business slip off to the Kindle? Or are their still crazies like me who want to spend all day in their stores, drinking coffee and browsing and spending a small fortune on books I don't need but absolutely must have or I'll die?

I have yet to be published. But I am certain I want to see my work in the tangible, be able to walk into one of our local shops and see it displayed. I just don't think having it read on a Kindle would give me the same thrill. I know I'd have a tough time signing it.

My friend that runs the dusty old book nook that has become my second home had this to say, though: "The story's the same, no matter where you read it." Good point.

Hangman

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